Inside the mind of a criminal: Car break-ins


Carrie Boruff is like a lot of people. She loves riding her bike on the Monon Trail. But while she was on a recent ride someone was breaking into her locked car and stealing her wallet that was in the glove compartment. Surveillance video shows the crime taking place.

"He was a pro. It didn't take him long to get in here," said Boruff. "Within 20 minutes, I got on my on-line banking and noticed he had spent $400-$500 in 45 minutes. I know he went to CVS and purchased cigarettes and alcohol, a cell phone, and then he proceeded to Target - $500 worth of merchandise there and then Lowes, $500," said Boruff.

We've gone through police records showcasing thousands of car break-ins in Marion County. According to police records, 7 cars have been targeted at United Skates of America on the northwest side - the most break-ins in Marion County in 2012.

Castleton Square Mall had 34 car break-ins in 2011 making it the number one target for thieves in Marion County. Holliday Park was the second most popular place for thieves with 26 cars broken into. According to police records hotel parking lots are another popular target for thieves. The Embassy Suites on West Washington had 24 car break-ins in 2011 and four break-ins in 2012.

I wanted to learn from a criminal why he chooses certain cars when he strikes and where he is likely to break in to a vehicle. So, I went to the Edinburgh Correctional Facility to get those answers from 35-year-old James Hardin. The former Paoli resident is serving a seven-year prison sentence for ripping off cars.

"I stole 300 cars. I would take them over the bridge in Louisville and sell them for cash. No title needed. Nothing. They knew what they was buying," said Hardin.

Hardin says he targeted 2008-2010 model year cars and would receive $2,000 for each stolen vehicle.

"A lot of Fords, a lot of F-150's, F-250's, their steering column breaks easily. All you need is a screwdriver and you bust the steering column," said Hardin. "I would target nice neighborhoods. I would see a vehicle and I would watch it and I would try to get some kind of pattern of their routine. Maybe they get home at 5 o'clock. Their lights are out by 10. If it's a new vehicle and it's sitting on the street, and they have somewhat of a yard and I know I can get in it and their dome light is going to go on without them noticing. I was taking it," said Hardin.

Car break-in database - look up incidents for Carmel, Martinsville, Franklin and Indianapolis

He also admits to also breaking into hundreds of vehicles.

"You only need about two minutes to get in a vehicle," said Hardin. "If there's something that valuable in there, I'll bust your window out if I have to."

Hardin said he would target cars parked at golf courses, nature trails and shopping malls because those are areas where people would be away for a period of time.

"Any kind of nature trails, any kind of tracks, especially if you can watch them pull up, and they're into walking for fitness - you know they're going to be gone for at least a half an hour," said Hardin. "I know I've seen a woman put a purse in the trunk and they think that's safe as can be. That's not safe. On a newer vehicle, I'm gonna bust your window, I'm gonna get in your glove box and pop your trunk," said Hardin.

"If I needed a couple hundred dollars, I would scope out women in shopping malls, they're real trusting with their purchases, especially if they think they can put it in their trunk and it's safe. And, it's not. It's not safe it all," said Hardin. "I could sit in a parking lot for 15 minutes and watch 3 women lock their purses up, especially if they're with their husbands, There's no reason for them to take it. There might be a checkbook in there, there may be debit cards, most people they won't mess with your checkbook, your debit cards. Before you get back out in your car, they've already hit the ATM machine," said Hardin. "I could see a woman and her kids get out, she's distracted. Even if she's at a pop machine and she leaves her car running with a purse in it, I'll jump in her car and take it, and I'll take the whole car and leave my car in the parking lot," said Hardin.

"Not only are you out your wallet, your identification, all that stuff that means a lot to you, now you've got to worry about the insurance, and getting your window fixed, trying to recover all this stuff, that you need," said Hardin.

Hardin says most of the cars he'd target were left unlocked. He says leaving valuables inside is the biggest mistake people make. He says thieves aren't fooled when you try to hide valuables.

"They'll fold their seat over, and put it under the seat and fold it over to the steering wheel, that's a dead giveaway. If I see it, the first thing I think of is there's something of value under that seat," said Hardin.

"They throw their coats over their laptops in the backseat, dead giveaway. If you've got something valuable in your vehicle, no one is going to stop at busting a window or jimmying your lock. It doesn't matter. I'm gonna bust your window and by the time the alarm goes off, by the time you look out your window, and get out to the car to look around, I'm gone."

Hardin recommends people take valuables with them when they leave their car unattended.

"If you've got anything of value in your vehicles, why take a chance? Go ahead and take a couple of minutes and take it in the house. Take it in the store with you. If it's such a problem out there, prevent it," said Hardin.

"Just because you take your checkbook out of your purse to go grocery shopping, what about your credit card and your debit card and your identity and your social security number? Stuff you can never get back. A lot of that stuff is just dumped out. You wouldn't believe it. Stuff that means so much to one person means nothing to another," said Hardin.

Car break-in database - look up incidents for Carmel, Martinsville, Franklin and Indianapolis